Socially Phobic

June 7, 2007

The past couple of days

Filed under: Bad Days,Depression,Drugs — iambrave @ 3:44 am

have sort of been a personal hell for me. The physical symptoms from going off of Lithium went away but the emotional symptoms, not so much. I had to go into work yesterday and that was fine, but as soon as I left I lost it. I pretty much cried for eight straight hours. Today was a bit better except for a massive explosion of anger after I got woken up from a nap – I don’t know if this is exactly related but have I mentioned that naps make me somewhat psychotic? I would really like to know if this happens to anyone else. I typically wake up in the midst of a hot flash and extremely hostile. Do other people get hot flashes when they nap? I should Google it. I really shouldn’t nap at all given my problems sleeping at night and the amazingly terrible way that I feel when I wake up but I just can’t resist the blissful way that it feels to drift off so easily in the afternoon because that never happens at night. I don’t dread sleeping during the day the way that I do at night, and I can’t seem to stop denying myself this guilty pleasure. But please remember this if you ever serve on a jury for a crime that I committed – I think that I could plead a very strong case for temporary insanity if said crime occurred within a post-nap period.

Anyway. I don’t know what I’m doing. My husband and I also had a Big Talk yesterday about the reasons that I am depressed other than the biochemical madness. The deal is this: I believe that we are both sort of obsessed with having a baby. This is sort of like true confession time, because I don’t talk about this with very many people. Before we got married, whenever I had a chance to make a wish I would wish for a baby. Since the wedding, however, I have grown increasingly more wary. It was all well and good when it was a wish and a prayer but since it has become something that I have been taking actions to accomplish and talking to doctors about the reality of it scares me. It has gone from an anxiety that my clock is ticking way too fast (pretty irrational, given my age (28), and didn’t I just read that a 60-year-old gave birth?) to well, we have a few more years so what is the rush (more rational, but it feels weird when one of the things that I have been obsessing over does a complete 180 in my head). There are money issues, logistical issues like I just finished my first semester of a program and would I ever go back, issues about the fact that, as a couple, we have yet to have a life together that includes having a group of friends that lives in the same city that we do and really we never go out at all anymore due to our mentally ill dog (a true but long story for another time) and so shouldn’t we have a life where we are free to go out as desired before we just can’t anymore, and then issues about the fact that the reality of me, having a baby, having to be on top of my shit, not wanting to raise a child depressed or at least ever show my depressed face to my child because I know from personal experience what it is like to be raised by a depressed parent and I don’t want to be that mom, as well as not having time to lie on the couch for 8 hours and cry anymore as determined to be personally necessary, plus I consider myself to be very irresponsible on the whole and I have yet to figure out how to make a budget or grocery shop effectively or keep the house clean (also things that my parents never taught me but that I probably should have figured out by now – I consider myself to be fairly smart but there are certain common-sense things that elude me – I basically need to take home ec for grownups). And that horrendous run-on sentence pretty much sums it up and I don’t feel like editing so hopefully it all makes a little bit of sense.

All right, you say, so perhaps you aren’t ready. Perhaps you should wait another year or two. Why not? Having a baby in my early 30s – so reasonable. The question, then, is this: what the hell am I doing with my medication? Why am I putting my body through this right now if we aren’t going to do this right now? Because while I do not like being dependent on things due to my abandonment fears (odd running image in my head that has symbolized this for several years now: being in a less-developed foreign country and not having any meds and all hell ensuing…to tell you the truth, I don’t even feel comfortable finding, say, the perfect makeup, because what am I going to do if they stop making Bare Minerals? How have I gotten through so many of these issues with human beings yet hold onto them so strongly with inanimate objects, if you can classify a medication as such?), the truth is that I have been relatively stabilized over the past few months and feeling pretty all right and now I feel like shit so what is the point if we aren’t just going to go ahead and do this? I was of the mindset of “first I just need to see how the medication thing goes and then we will go from there”, but maybe that was wrong. Because I know that the way that I have been feeling is as equally bad for my body as are the chemicals that I ingest on a daily basis. I can see the point of not wanting to be on the benzos and having to take a sleeping pill every night even if they have been improving my quality of life but this whole Lithium thing has been sort of a nightmare that is hopefully coming to an end but no way in hell do I want to go through this withdrawal again anytime soon.

We left the discussion at the point where we were both going to think about these things independently and then reconvene in a little bit. And honestly, despite my intense desire to Figure Out Every Single Thing About The Entire Rest Of My Life Right Now (also irrational, naturally), I do realize that making major life decisions on a day when you cry for eight hours is not the best thing to do.

There was more, about how I am depressed about the summer because it is stretching endlessly before me in a sea of emptiness (HSP – TOTALLY called this one) and not enough to do that I thought would feel liberating but doesn’t because I rarely get bored but I am bored as hell now and how if I don’t find an internship or a job (two interviews so far, a potential opportunity still maybe there but I don’t have my hopes up) I will be alone every day while he is at work and I feel empty and sad and like I am having an identity crisis and I am 14 years old again and I need a project be it learning Spanish or CSS or volunteering or temping or anything really…but it’s too much to get into all at right this second.

To sum up, I am not handling the transition that is being married so well I suppose just because it is a major life change and I have had so many so recently (I just took this Life Stress Test and got a 354 and that is not even counting the items that I didn’t include because they seemed to overlap meaning that I have a high susceptibility to stress-related illness). I love my husband just as much if not more since we got married (though it turns out that I hate the word husband as much as I hate the word fiance – from this point forward I will be calling him Mr. Brave which is accurate because he must be pretty brave to be prepared to deal with my issues on a long-term basis) so this is not the issue. There is this book that I love, How to Survive the Loss of a Love, which makes the point that every transition is a loss and that you can and maybe need to mourn happy changes as well as sad ones, so maybe I am just in mourning for a lot of parts of my former life right now which doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be married, because I do, but getting used to things is a process. I am feeling confused in general.

I apologize for all of the run-ons and parenthetical asides here. I’m not making excuses or anything but did you know that the vast majority of my posts are written after I take my sleeping pills, go lie in bed for a little bit, and then get up again to blog? I’m a grammar snob and hold myself to high writing standards but, you know, sleeping pills and all. Which I may or may not still be taking next week, an adventure in and of itself to be sure.

One thing that I did learn today is that scrubbing the bathtub is a pretty good way to get my anger under control. Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

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May 22, 2007

Welcome to my first post

Filed under: Depression,Drugs,Life in General — iambrave @ 9:14 am

as a Married Person. Thank you all for your kind wishes!!! Today is actually my 11-day anniversary, which is weird because of how long it means I’ve been away from here. So far, being married is a lot like living in sin except with a lot more stuff for the kitchen. I don’t really cook. I think we should return it and get a Wii.

I believe that I’ve actually been sort of depressed. I don’t know if I have ever really expressed here the massive amounts of time and energy that it took to pull this thing off.  The wedding was my baby for several months. Although it was frequently unpleasant to deal with and often seemed to take far more work than it was worth, I still had to take care of it. That was my job. I pulled it off, I suppose. I knew abstractly that the event itself would go by quickly, but it was seriously just one big blur. I don’t really remember too much. It’s just flashes of images and conversations. I guess it went all right. I think that if I stretch my mind as far as I can and try to be objective about it, I could say that it was nice. There are a lot of pictures. They look pretty nice. You can see them if you ask. But, yeah, I spent all these months planning this big party and now it is over. I feel deflated. I feel bad because I think that my husband thinks that I am depressed because I am having second thoughts about having gotten married, and that is so not it at all. I have sort of tried to explain but I haven’t had the easiest time speaking for the past couple of days.

I guess everything is okay. A couple of my friends (maid of honor and bridesmaid) are really mad at me, and I don’t quite understand why. Either this means that they have lost it or that I am so self-centered right now that I have no idea about the terrible way that I am treating people. Plus I’m mad at my mom, but so what else is new? I need to stay away from my home town for a little bit. I haven’t lived there in 2.5 years but I have attempted and succeeded in maintaining friendships with several people (which is good) and every time I go back it is so busy and intense and I am out constantly and never without plans and it is completely different from the way that my life has become. I get tired. I can’t party that hard anymore. I feel old.

The one thing that made me feel worst about the wedding was that there were so many people there and I wanted to spend five hours with all of them individually. See, the thing is that I guess that I used to be really social and maybe I didn’t really realize it until I moved away from home and didn’t have the accumulated product of living in the same place for 26 years anymore. Plus all of my family was there and I don’t get to see a lot of them very often. It was a melancholy feeling.

I have also gained around 10 pounds in the past couple of weeks. Fun.

So, I’m sitting on the couch with nothing to do. There is a lot that I could and possibly even should be doing, but I keep telling myself that I just need one more day off…Don’t worry about me, though. I have plans. I see both the psychiatrist and the GP this week and I am going to ask them what I need to do to get my body in shape to get pregnant (which means, of course, going off of my medications). How freaky weird is that??? I would like to add the disclaimer that I am NOT, in fact, trying to get pregnant. I just like to talk about it a lot with certain people. I am only discussing this here because 1. it is actually happening and it feels very strange to even be at the point of talking about it and 2. it relates to my Fun Summer Adventure plan of going off benzodiazepines.

On the topic of meds, I received a comment in which someone expressed concern regarding the fact that I have stated my intentions to go off my medication this summer. The thing is that I am not doing it because I feel great and don’t think I need them anymore. First, I don’t really feel that great. Well, I guess I feel pretty good for me. But I am terrified that I need them! The primary reason for doing this is, of course, related to procreation as mentioned above. I also, however, don’t necessarily think that it is the best thing to be on medications designated on-label for short-term usage for years and years and years. Temazepam, I am specifically looking at you right now. The only mood stabilizer that I am on is Lithium of which I only take 300 mg. a day. I have never had bloodwork done but I don’t even know if I ever hit the therapeutic range. And other than that, it’s all for anxiety. And migraines. Well, I don’t want to speculate on what’s going to happen or make up horror stories about how bad it’s going to be. It could be fine. And it always has the potential of being short-term.

I just ate half a cake.

April 7, 2007

I have had the urge to tell this story

Filed under: Depression — iambrave @ 2:42 am

for the past couple of days ever since I read this over at Finding Your Marbles. I think that Scott articulates very well the way that it can feel to be diagnosed with a mental illness, and I highly recommend reading the post. However, this isn’t the way that I felt the first time that I got an official diagnosis.

Sometimes it feels like I’ve always had emotional issues of one kind or another. I remember feeling sad for reasons that I couldn’t articulate at a very young age, maybe when I was four or five. I don’t even remember the first time that I went to therapy, but I know that it was with my mother and it was probably before I started elementary school. My parents had separated when I was two, and officially divorced when I was four, so it probably had something to do with that. But, for the time being, let’s fast forward a decade or so to high school.

I’m not exactly sure when it started, but at some point during my teenage years I started feeling like I wanted to cry ALL OF THE TIME. To this day, the feeling of being on the verge of tears is the primary physical manifestation of my depression. At this point, there are times when I can’t and don’t actually cry for days at a time when I feel this way; it’s just a physical sensation of needing and wanting to cry. When I get this feeling these days, I think it can go on for a while before I even notice it. There have been other times in my life when it has been unbearable, coming back seemingly out of nowhere, bursting through any feelings of happiness or even normalcy. I guess that I have probably just learned to handle it from having had to live with it for such a long time and I have luckily gotten to a point where I know that I am not going to burst into tears in public (and if I really thought that I was going to, I would probably just stay home).

High school was an incredible struggle for me; it was one of those unbearable times except the bad feeling didn’t have any happiness to come bursting through in the first place. A lot of days, I just didn’t go. I remember times when my mom would drive me to school and I would sit in the car sobbing, begging her to take me home. And a lot of times she would. If this is possible, I think that I literally missed hundreds of days of school. A lot of times, when I had gone to school, I would leave early. Sometimes it was to skip class with the friends that I somehow managed to have, but sometimes I just left by myself. And I will say that for all of the ways that being a grownup is more difficult than being young, I remain eternally grateful for the fact that there is no longer a school security guard chasing me down with his or her walkie talkie if I desperately need to get out of a situation. With freedom has come responsibility, but, by God, I’d take freedom any day over having to return to the feeling of being trapped like that.

It was senior year when I fully broke down and just couldn’t do it anymore. I ended up taking a medical absence in the middle of the year, and when I was determined “better” enough to go back to school for the final quarter I just never did. I was terrified to go back because of what I was imagining the other kids that I went to school with were thinking about me for having been absent for so long in the first place – was it typical teenage self-consciousness? Was it the social phobia that would go undiagnosed for another decade? In any case, and regardless of any mis- or missed diagnoses, I have nothing but good feelings towards the therapist that I had during my adolescent years who is my main inspiration for becoming a therapist now. She gave me nothing but unconditional regard and respect at a time when almost everyone else in my life had no idea what to do with me. I had already been seeing her for several years but I don’t remember her, or any other doctor during that time, naming exactly what it was that was wrong with me. Maybe they had; I had certainly been prescribed antidepressants already by the time that I was 17. And maybe I’m remembering wrong exactly when it was that this occurred. But what I do remember was how it feel to first hear the words “You are clinically depressed”.

The feeling was relief. What getting a diagnosis meant for me was answers. It meant that there was a name for what was wrong with me and naming it somehow made it smaller, less terrifying, easier to understand than what had previously been a gigantic black hole of unexplainable emptiness and sadness. It’s funny to think that getting an official diagnosis of mental illness made me feel less crazy, but that’s exactly what happened.

Other diagnoses haven’t been as easy for me. Bipolar II was certainly not an easy one to hear and social phobia (which I only heard for the first time around a year ago) was more of a “What the hell are you talking about?” moment than anything else before I came to understand it. But, when I was 17, being able to give a name to my overwhelming sadness made the world seem less scary for a minute or two.

April 3, 2007

I ended up

Filed under: Depression,Disclosure,Drugs — iambrave @ 2:31 pm

getting really positive responses to the emails that I sent out yesterday, so I am really glad that I decided to make the decision to be honest. Lies can really start eating away at you after a while, especially when you have lied to countless people over the course of decades.

Last night, at the Seder, the version of the Haggadah (prayer book) that we were using had a lot to say about freedom. Freedom is the theme of the Passover holiday, specifically the release of the the Israelites from their captivity in Egypt. However, this Haggadah talked about a lot of different kinds of freedom, and one thing that it said was something along the lines of “we need to release ourselves from the bondage that we place upon ourselves within our own minds”. And what was relevant to me was all of the issues that I have been talking about here lately. The bondage of stigma and of lies and of self-condemnation has been holding me captive for so many years. They say that Moses told the Pharaoh to “Let my people go,” and so I am telling my brain to let me go. Or rather, I guess a better way to put it might be that I need to let myself go.

I still feel really, really sad today. I’m not having an easy time being alone right now, and my fiance is at work and my dog is at daycare and I got my paper done for class tonight which is a good thing but now I have just sort of collapsed on the couch crying and I can’t quite figure out how to get up again. Maybe I just need to cry it out and I will feel better…it’s been a long time since I have been alone in the house and just let myself cry. Or maybe it hasn’t been. I can’t honestly remember. Depression isn’t really great for the memory.

Shit. I just missed a call from my psychiatrist because the caller ID said “Out of Area”. I really need an appointment. I guess. I don’t know what he is going to do for me, anyway, given that I still intend on trying to go off all of my meds come the end of May. I think that a lot of psychiatrists really try their best (although I have seen some really bad ones) but there are limitations to what they are capable of doing for some people. I have been on so many different drugs it’s ridiculous…SSRIs make me really anxious or physically ill for extended periods, with the possible exception of Prozac; I am at the point that I am scared to touch anything that specifically targets serotonin. I tried Lexapro, I believe, most recently, and I couldn’t even handle it at a half dosage for a full week. I am on a low dose of Lithium right now but I don’t know how much that helps with depression, given that I believe that it’s mainly used for depression to augment antidepressants (and I’m not on any) and otherwise to treat mania, which is luckily not a problem for me though some docs have called me hypomanic/Bipolar II but who really knows? It’s hard to put a name on my specific variety of mood disorder…NOS, I suppose…a guy I saw in California wanted me to have that surgery that I can’t remember the name of now, he didn’t call it deep brain stimulation I don’t think, for my “treatment-resistant depression”. I was definitely dysthymic with major depressive episodes in high school and college, I think, for which SSRIs did work but my brain has changed since then. I think of anxiety as my major problem so that is what I am being treated for mainly right now…lord knows I love my benzos but I don’t know what they’re doing for me today when I am just so sad. My history is a long story and I just don’t have the energy for it right now.

Okay, so the bad news is that I don’t feel well. The good news is that I a tiny little freer than I was yesterday because I was honest with people. I feel bad, but I’m working on not feeling bad about myself for feeling bad. That’s something.

April 2, 2007

An update: my emails

Filed under: Depression,Disclosure — iambrave @ 6:34 pm

didn’t get me shit back except for a group email from one of my supervisors to all of the students who work for her asking for an update on our progress. I’m like, “HELLO! AS MY MONDAY UPDATE THIS WEEK, I BARED MY SOUL TO YOU!!!! ISN’T THAT ENOUGH????” Sigh. I can be so self-centered at times. Just another reminder that the outside world keeps on turning as I sleep the afternoon away. So, anyway, no direct response yet to my disclosures after approximately eight hours.

But it gets me thinking: What were the emails that I sent really about, anyway? Talking about these issues was a calculated risk and I took it. Isn’t it a good thing that I took the risk regardless? Didn’t I do it for me, and for the cause, and in that case, the reactions (or lack thereof) shouldn’t be what matters? Yeah, I just need to keep telling myself that.

I’m super depressed right now, or at least I was until I started writing. Head-in-a-fog, can-barely-speak-out-loud depressed. So now I’m trying to figure out why. Is it because calling in sick to work (for whatever reason) and not going to class tonight made it feel like I was giving up again? Like I was giving in wholeheartedly to yet another nervous breakdown? And what do I do now? The next time I’m scheduled to go in to work in on Thursday (the other job is one I do from home, hence the need for a Monday update). If I don’t hear back from my boss, I am going to feel really, super embarrassed and it’s going to be even harder to go in then. But is that why I’m depressed? Or is it a random (seemingly, to me, because I don’t know the root causes of a lot of my up-and-downswings) misfiring or hormones and neurotransmitters? If I could give you a specific, definite answer to this question they would probably give me the Nobel Prize.

I’m supposed to be at a Passover Seder right now or within the half-hour, which isn’t exactly a thrilling prospect. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the traditions, this is more than any old dinner party. It’s highly interactive and requires group participation. It’s not the most appealing prospect when you feel like you can barely get off the couch.

On the other hand, what happens if I don’t go? One thing that I do know is this. Sometimes, I honestly need to take time off. But after I do, it’s infinitely harder the next time to go back. So if I don’t go, I will be at home all day alone tomorrow (that’s just the way my schedule is on Tuesdays) until I have class at 7:30 tomorrow night. Will it be all the harder to make it to class if I don’t go out tonight? If I have wiped an entire day off of the map, will I feel worse tomorrow?

There are a lot of reasons that I should go. Maybe I need to be around family and participate in a spiritual ritual that will remind me that, like I said before, the world keeps turning and it’s not all about me and my sadness. On the other hand, most of the people who are going to be there are strangers and I don’t know about you, but when I feel like I could burst into tears at any second I don’t really feel like being around people.

I guess I should go try to get dressed.

If everyone swept their own doorstep,

Filed under: Anxiety,Depression,Disclosure,Social Phobia,Stigma — iambrave @ 10:50 am

the whole world would be kept clean. This is a quote that my 8th grade history teacher taught us, and it has stuck in my mind all of these years.

In this spirit, I just sent the following email to the people that I am working for (I have two graduate assistantships, and two bosses, so I had to send it twice):

Dear _________,

This is a very difficult email for me to write, because it is very hard for me to talk about these things. However, I have decided to be honest with you about what is going on with me right now.

I have been diagnosed with social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression. I am under the care of doctors for these conditions, and have been working on these issues for several years. I go through good times, when I am relatively symptom free, and I go through bad times, where it is virtually impossible for me to leave the house.

I am going through a very hard time right now and I don’t think that it is going to be possible for me to come into work, at least for today. I have every intention of making up the hours that I owe you, and I am very sorry for any inconvenience that this may be causing you.

Please feel free to contact me about this; I will be happy to discuss this with you further.

Thanks,
Julia

This counts among the hardest things that I have ever done. I have suffered with all of these things for so many years, but the only occasions in which I have been honest with someone that I am working for have been when it is already too late: I have already gone on medical disability or quit the job.

The doorstep thing means this: I have expressed how important it has become for me to work on reducing the stigma of mental illness in society. I did not feel like I could actually say in good faith that I was doing this if I didn’t have the strength to be honest with people in my own life.  I wanted to try something different, and I don’t know what is going to happen from here. I was scared, and I am scared to see the response that I get. But, as my dad said, “If they don’t respond well they aren’t the kind of people that you want to be working for anyway.”

I am truly blessed to have the support of my family right now; I know that not everyone is that lucky.

I don’t know what else to say. I guess that it’s time now to just sit back and wait for a response and to know, deep down, as hard as it may be, that ultimately it all boils down to the fact that I told the truth.

April 1, 2007

I had a

Filed under: Depression — iambrave @ 11:16 pm

small breakdown today. I was feeling very depressed and frustrated with myself and anxious again about all of the work that I wasn’t getting done and haven’t gotten done recently. I was angry and overwhelmed and had intense urges to break things, to hit someone, to pick up something or anything and smash it across the room. I felt like I couldn’t go on anymore with everything that I have been trying to do. I said the worst words of all, out loud: “I want to die.”

I didn’t die. I didn’t get any work done, but I’m still here and I’m not feeling great, but being here counts for everything right now. It’s going to have to.

I just feel sometimes like my problems are so unreachable. Like I have spent a million years seeing a million doctors who have given me a million different drugs and I am still no further than I was at the beginning the process. But, like I said yesterday, I am still moving. I am still traveling. When I am in a dark place, it is hard to remember that there has ever been light and to imagine that I will ever reach it again. I will. But these ups and downs…I just wish that they were more predictable. Maybe they are predictable to the people around me. But when I get lost in emotion, it feels like the first time all over again.

I wish I could be more positive right now. I wish that I could tell myself that I am going to feel better tomorrow and genuinely believe it. In fact, what I am thinking is that it’s going to be a shitty week. I know that I’m supposed to be living in the moment and not worrying about tomorrow and everything that needs to get done, but I’m not going to lie.

Should I lie? They say that the physical act of smiling makes you happier. Does that apply to words, as well?

I’ve always hated Sundays.

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